DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Bicyclists in the Almanzo 100 thaw out at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park Saturday at the 65-mile point in their quest to finish the race that was marred by constant rain, temperatures in the 40s and strong winds. Many dropped out at this point and other locations along the route, but most in this group persevered.
DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Bicyclists in the Almanzo 100 thaw out at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park Saturday at the 65-mile point in their quest to finish the race that was marred by constant rain, temperatures in the 40s and strong winds. Many dropped out at this point and other locations along the route, but most in this group persevered.
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“Al-monsoon-zo,” commented one bicyclist taking cover from the rain under a downtown business overhang just prior to the start of the Almanzo 100 Saturday morning.

However, unlike tropical monsoons, the temperature Saturday was just above 40 degrees, which, combined with 15 to 18 mile per hour winds, made the going tough for the participants in the endurance bicycle races. Besides the physical toll of the wet, cold day, the mud from the crushed rock surfaces of the roads challenged the equipment of the riders.

Only several hundred of the more than 1,000 riders made it to the starting line of the Almanzo 100, which is the most popular of the three gravel road races. Only 105 participants finished as the conditions were just brutal.

More people dropped out than finished this year with some rolling back into Spring Valley shortly after the Almanzo 100 started. Tim Savre finished first in five hours and 50 minutes while the last person to complete the course came in eight hours later.

Spring Valley native David Toews was one of the many riders who pulled up short in the Almanzo 100. He and his friend, Joel Lokken, made it to Preston, around the 40-mile mark, before calling it a day after four hours on the gravel roads as “our bikes and bodies were pretty much done by then,” said Toews.

“We had been paying attention to the weather all week, so we had a good idea it was going to be inclement weather,” said Toews. “I don’t think we were quite prepared for what it ended up being, though.”

Toews, who has participated in the Almanzo 100 before, was surprised at the few number of riders this year. Still, even the small numbers made an impact on the conditions as did the weather.

“The rain, wind and cold were intense and sapped our energy quickly,” he said. “The roads were muddy, and I wish I would have been able to be further up toward the front of the pack because by the time we rode them, they had been pretty churned up by the previous riders.”

The first thing the two bicyclists sought when they pulled out was a shower and meal, offered by Russ and Joan Betsinger. Then they headed to the Spring Valley Community Center to “admit defeat,” said Toews. They did get to see a few of the finishers who covered the 100 miles, which was “great,” he added, before they headed home to the Twin Cities.

Wilderfest also included two longer races. Thirteen people completed the Royal 162, which started at 7 a.m. Saturday, two hours before the Almanzo for the 62 extra miles covered in this race. Only one person out of 11 who started the Alexander 380, which started Friday morning, made it across the finish line.

Look for more details on the races in next week’s edition of the Spring Valley Tribune.